It is several weeks later. Stella is packing Blanche’s things. Blanche is in the bath. The men are playing poker in the kitchen, where the atmosphere is raw and lurid again. Eunice comes downstairs and into the apartment. Stanley is bragging about his good poker luck, and Eunice calls the men callous pigs.
Blanche now uses the escape of bathing not to attempt to wash off her sordid sexual history in the more distant past but to cleanse herself of Stanley’s rape. Stanley is still the swaggering, aggressive, dominant male.
Eunice tells Stella that the baby is asleep upstairs, and the woman discuss Blanche. Stella says that they have told Blanche that they have made arrangements for her to spend time in country, but Blanche thinks she is going off to travel with Shep.
Stella cannot raise her baby with Blanche in the house: the baby will be a Kowalski, not a DuBois. Blanche does not – or cannot – understand where she is going, so she tells herself the story she wants to believe.
Stella tells Eunice that she couldn’t believe Blanche’s story about being raped by Stanley, since if she believed it, she couldn’t go on living with him. Eunice assures Stella that she has done the right thing and that she must move forward with her life.
Stella admits to Eunice that she chooses not to believe Blanche’s story about Stanley’s rape. Eunice supports Stella’s decision, reinforcing this construction of reality. Stella now is the one living in a fantasy in order to maintain her life.
Blanche peeks out to check that the men won’t see her when she comes out of the bathroom. She appears in the red satin robe. The polka music plays in the background. Stella and Eunice murmur appreciatively over Blanche. Blanche asks if Shep has called, and Stella tells her, “Not yet.”
The polka music emphasizes that Blanche can no longer distinguish between reality and illusion. Stella and Eunice allow her to live in her dream-world rather than face society.
Upon hearing Blanche’s voice, Mitch’s face and arms sag, and he lapses into a daydream. Stanley yells at him to snap out of it. The sound of Stanley’s voice startles Blanche. Her hysteria mounting, she demands to know what is going on. Stella and Eunice soothe her, saying that Blanche is going on a trip.
Mitch feels guilty for his treatment of Blanche. When Blanche hears Stanley’s voice, she reacts hysterically, as the very sound calls to mind the painful memory and triggers her hysteria.
Eunice offers Blanche a grape, and Blanche launches into an odd, hallucinatory monologue about perishing at sea by eating an unwashed grape. As she speaks, a Doctor and Matron have come around the corner, and Stella and Eunice grow tense in anticipation.
In Blanche’s mind, symbols and imagination are just as real as reality, if not more so: to her, a paper moon is the real moon. The mental asylum waits in the wings.
The Doctor rings the doorbell. Eunice answers and announces that a gentleman is calling for Blanche, but Blanche says that she is not quite ready yet. The polka plays faintly in the background, and drums also begin to play softly.
The threatening jungle beat and lurid shadows mix with the polka music that haunts Blanche, representing both her madness and her sensation of being trapped.
When Eunice mentions a “they,” Blanche grows more nervous. Eunice says a plainly dressed lady is also with Shep. Blanche is anxious about walking through the poker game, but Stella goes with her. As Blanche crosses through and the men (except Mitch) stand awkwardly, Blanche says, “Please don’t get up. I’m only passing through.”
In contrast to the first poker game, in which Blanche is eager to make the men notice her, now, she craves withdrawal, wanting to retreat from their gaze and their perceived danger.
When Blanche sees the Doctor, not Shep, she retreats back to the apartment, frightened. They all stand tensely for a moment. Blanche tries to go back into the bedroom, but Stanley blocks her way. She rushes past him, claiming that she has forgotten something. Lurid reflections and shadows appear on the walls again, and the polka music plays distortedly, accompanied by noises of the jungle.
Just as Stanley trapped Blanche like an animal in a cage in Scene Ten, he is now involved in capturing her again – this time, however, to dominate her by removing her from society, not raping her. Blanche is trapped both in her own mind and under Stanley’s physical force.
The Doctor sends the Matron in to grab Blanche. The Matron advances on one side, Stanley on the other. The Matron and Stanley’s voice echo around the room. Blanche retreats in panic, crying that she wants to be left alone. The echoes throb around her.
Though Blanche continues to retreat from the force of law represented by the Matron and Stanley’s animal force, the trap draws tighter and tighter.
Stanley says that the only thing Blanche could have forgotten is the paper lantern. He rips it off the bare bulb and holds it out to her. Blanche shrieks. All the men rise up. Stella runs out to the porch and Eunice embraces her. Stella sobs, saying, “What have I done?” Eunice is firm, telling Stella that she is doing the right thing.
Williams notes in the stage directions that when Stanley dangles the paper lantern in front of Blanche, it is as though he is showing her herself, and the gesture terrifies Blanche. When Stella sees Blanche’s horror, she herself is sympathetically anguished.
While Stella and Eunice are speaking on the porch, Mitch has started toward the bedroom, but Stanley blocks him from entering, shoving him away. Mitch crumples at the table in tears.
Stanley asserts his alpha-male dominance over Mitch, and Mitch bows out of the fight, recognizing Stanley as holding the power.
The Matron has seized Blanche. She asks the Doctor if Blanche needs a straitjacket, but the Doctor says, “It won’t be necessary.” The doctor leads Blanche gently out, supporting her by the arm. Blanche says, “Whoever you are––I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”
Blanche departs the social world of the play and retreats permanently into her mind. She does not distinguish between the Doctor’s gentlemanly actions and those of her suitors, responding to his treatment just as she responded to Mitch’s. To the very end, Blanche plays her role of the persona of the southern belle Blanche. And it's true, ever since her husband's suicide she has always relied on the kindness of strangers, though that kindness was not the polite gentlemanly kindness but rather sexual "kindness" of men she did not know. But she means the former here, indicating her complete withdrawal into her idealized past.
Blanche and the Doctor walk out of the house and around the corner. Stella cries out, “Blanche! Blanche! Blanche!” but Blanche doesn’t turn. Eunice places Stella’s baby in her arms.
Just as Stanley had cried, “Stella! Stella!” to get Stella to come back, Stella calls her sister’s name, but Blanche does not return. And Stella does not chase after her. Instead, Stella holds her baby, accepting her future rather than her past.
Stanley joins Stella on the porch. She starts to sob “with inhuman abandon,” and he holds her in his arms, caresses her and murmuring wordlessly. In the kitchen, Steve says, “The game is seven-card stud.”
Stella and Stanley reconcile on a non-verbal level, underscoring the physical nature of their relationship. The poker begins again; life goes on.